Lots of excitement, nerves, and tears filled the auditorium before the show began. A cast and crew of almost 50 students perfected the sound, make-up, costume, and most importantly,the turn table set while trying to prepare themselves for the big night. “Check, Please!” follows a series of blind dates that couldn’t get any worse… until they do. Especially when your date happens to be a raging kleptomaniac, or your grandmother’s bridge partner, or a mime, you start to wonder if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Portage High School thespians performing on and behind the stage of “Check, Please!” have been working tirelessly for the last 10 weeks to put on a great show. Director of “Check, Please!”, Theater Teacher, PHS Thespian Club Sponsor, and Auditorium Director, Muhaffa Thompson, is the definition of what it means to be a great teacher. Nothing but passion, love, and pride for her students poured out of her.
“I love my job, people may say that but I honestly have the best job in the building,” Thompson said. “I really enjoyed the act of taking especially those who didn’t think they had a creative bone in their body and making that into something.”
When Thompson started a family she realized she had a nurturing way about her that she didn’t think would be fulfilled in professional directing.
“I had my heart set on going to grad school and then going off to live in a big city and doing what I’m doing now but with actual professionals, and then I realized that instead of getting frustrated with the professionals, I got frustrated with the amateurs and I loved that, I could explain stage right and stage left all day.”
That is exactly why her students love her and why she is able to create such a comforting and welcoming atmosphere among the students she teaches. Reese Rocha, sophomore and Thompson’s assistant stage manager, had a whirlwind of emotions running through her, but with Thompson on her side, her love for her cast and crew won her over.
“I’ve been interested in theater since 8th grade, I really found out how to be more chill and animatic and it just filed from there,” Rocha said. “I’m really excited for everyone to just see everyone act and see everything put together because we’ve all grown and gotten so close, it’s awesome.”
Fellow thespian and cast mate, Matthew Rodda, played the roles of Jones, Paul, and Barry,and was very excited to be in yet another play. His third one thus far in his high school career.
“I am nervous, I have done this before, but I am nervous;I just hope everything goes according to plan and that we can get through it without any bumps in the road,” Rodda said. “I’m most excited to see the audience’s reactions to the scenes, we’ve all put a lot of work into it and I just want to see what the audience thinks.”
Senior Ian Zurzolo, played the roles of Louis and Mark. He’s always wanted to try theater, but could never talk himself into doing it until now. “Check, Please!” marks Zurzolo’s first performance of his high school career and he couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m excited, there’s a lot of emotions going on right now and I know everyone is eager to get started,” Zurzolo said. “My favorite part about this production has been how everyone comes together as a whole, and how strong we’ve all become.”
As the cast and crew circled up for a pre-show pep talk, the crowd began filing in. Proud family and friends filled the seats eager to see their loved ones perform. One mom, Ladwana King, was one of the first in line waiting for the doors to open. This show marked her niece, Sydney Gardner’s, first play and she wanted to make it a surprise.
“I’m excited, this is her first real play and this is what she wants to go to school for,” King said. “She’s worked really hard for this and I’m really excited to see her shine, she is a bright young girl and has a wonderful future ahead of her.”
The Portage High School play “Check, Please!” will conclude on Saturday, November 23rd at 7:00 PM in the West Auditorium.